Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Climate, Week 26: The Network Race at NBC's Lowest Point

Let's take another look at the network situation as we move into the final phase of the season (the one with The Voice back in the mix).

Here are the season-to-date relative averages (for original non-sports series only) from the middle of the fall (week 7), after The Voice's finale (week 13), a little less than halfway through The Voice's hiatus (week 19) and right before The Voice's return on Monday (week 26):

7 94 105 105 93 29
13 91 108 105 93 30
19 92 110 98 99 29
26 94 111 90 106 30

Most of the trends from weeks 13 to 19 (when we last looked at this) essentially repeated to roughly the same degree from 19-26. ABC continued to rally on the back of a really strong The Bachelor season, CBS inched up a bit more, while NBC dropped another eight points and Fox picked up another seven. Across the full hiatus, NBC went -15 while Fox went +13.

Here was where I thought NBC would end the season back in week 7:
My extremely unscientific take: let's say NBC remains at its current 105 level for this period, reverts to the without-Voice 76 for the winter, and then returns to 105 when The Voice returns at the end of March. And let's say the first period contains 40% of the originals on each network, the hiatus 40% and the third period 20%. (105 + 105 + 76 + 76 + 105) / 5 = 93.4.
As of week 26, this looks pretty good: over the first 80%, I guessed (105 + 105 + 76 + 76) / 4 = 90.5, which is very close to where we sit now. NBC may be stronger in the last fifth of the season; if The Voice can stay at around the fall numbers, those ratings are better in the spring than they were in the fall. And if NBC can get anything out of Ready for Love, look out. But either way, suffice to say NBC should end up in the low-to-(if very lucky)-mid-90's.

Obviously the network is much weaker than it may have appeared at the end of the fall. But even if it stays at just a 90 the rest of the way (not impossible if Tuesday's Voice suggests some rejection of the new coaches), this will still be NBC's strongest relative entertainment season since 2004-05, the year after Friends left. Maybe it's mostly because of one show, but it's still significant.

As for the other networks: even with a much weaker American Idol, Fox has had a more significant midseason rally than they did last year, because 1) they were so much weaker in the fall; 2) NBC got much weaker in the winter, depressing the league average; and 3) The Following helped turn Monday around. But now NBC's stronger and the Monday growth will be pretty much gone (since Alcatraz ended around this time last year and gave way to a better Bones/House lineup), meaning Fox's relative growth should significantly slow if not stop entirely.

I expect ABC and CBS to drop a tick or so each from now to the finish line, if only because they're facing a "full-strength" NBC and Fox the rest of the way. And it looks like ABC may be weaker on Monday than they were in the winter.


Week Ending TPUT y2y bc y2y LeAv y2y
222/24/201333.9 -3% 8.3 -9% 2.11 -11%
233/3/201332.6 -4% 6.4 -25% 1.97 -19%
243/10/201332.3 -3% 6.3 -15% 1.99 -9%
253/17/201331.1 -4% 6.1 -20% 1.90 -13%
263/24/201332.6 +1% 6.6 -14% 1.95 -10%


Week Ending TPUTy2d y2dy2y bcy2d y2dy2y LAy2d y2dy2y
19/30/201232.4 -6% 9.2 -16% 2.50 -15%
510/28/201233.3 -3% 8.8 -10% 2.31 -13%
911/25/201233.5 -3% 8.8 -9% 2.26 -12%
1312/23/201233.4 -2% 8.5 -6% 2.24 -10%
171/20/201333.4 -3% 8.3 -8% 2.20 -10%
212/17/201333.6 -3% 8.3 -9% 2.19 -11%
253/17/201333.4 -3% 8.1 -10% 2.16 -12%
263/24/201333.4 -3% 8.0 -10% 2.15 -12%

Across the Voice's hiatus, the season-to-date broadcast viewing deficit vs. last year went from -6% to -10%, while the league entertainment average dropped from -10% to -12%. What can we expect of these numbers in the stretch run of the season? Next week should be a pretty good one, because The Voice hadn't started airing on Tuesday yet. The league average will almost certainly uptick to -11% (since it's technically very close at -11.53% this week).

Beyond that, in terms of year-to-year timeslot comparisons, The Voice should be able to benefit from putting its early rounds up against the back half of the year-ago season. -11% is probably the most likely outcome for the league average; that would be the worst year-to-year trend since the writer's strike season in 2007-08 (which was -12%).

Click to expand for more on the "climate" numbers used herein.

TPUT - This is an ESTIMATED average of how many people are watching TV from 8:00 to 11:00.
  • I derive these numbers by adding up all the ratings and dividing by all the shares in each of the 42 half-hours each week. That means there is some error relative to the numbers Nielsen actually releases. Sadly we don't regularly have access to those. I always advise not to rely heavily on these numbers for any one show in any one week, but the hope is that the error is minimized across a 42-timeslot sample every week.
  • I include the Old Methodology adjustment, which makes the number more like a measurement of how many people watch primetime programming Live + SD, rather than a measurement of how many people watch any TV (including old DVR stuff) from 8:00 to 11:00. This makes the number perhaps less intuitive in a vacuum, but it's pretty much a wash when making week-to-week and year-to-year comparisons, which is what we're really interested in.
bc - This is an average of how many people are watching national broadcast TV from 8:00 to 11:00.
  • This does NOT include the 10:00 adjustment used in the True2 calculation which attempts to account for Fox/CW programming and stronger cable. Again, that perhaps hurts the number in a vacuum, because the 10:00 numbers being used only include three networks, so I'm averaging timeslots that are somewhat apples-to-oranges. But again, it's a wash when making comparisons because I treat it that way all the time. It would not really change week-to-week or year-to-year comparisons, and that's what I mostly care about.
  • Another important note here is that these numbers include the preliminary averages for "sustaining" programming like presidential debates and commercial-free benefit concerts whose numbers are typically omitted from traditional Nielsen averages. I might eventually omit these from this particular calculation, but they're needed on my spreadsheets to 1) make PUT calculations in those timeslots and 2) create a competition number for the entertainment shows that air against them.
LeAv - This is a measurement of how many people watch the average moment of original entertainment series programming on the big four networks. Meaning, no sports, no reruns, no specials, no movies, no sustaining programming included.

Note: Beginning with week 9, all numbers compare against the next numbered week in the 2011-12 season. So week 9 compares against week 10 of 2011-12, etc. This was done to make the comparisons more calendar-friendly. See here for more on that.


Spot said...

I love your analysis. Yet, while I was reading it, I realized something: doesn't your calculation penalizes for instance NBC for using a timeslot filler like Deception instead of let's say repeats of Revolution, even though the later would probably perform worse?

Spot said...

That is true. Though I think (or at least hope) that the networks don't behave differently enough for it to be a big issue. For example, it might seem like CBS airs the least "filler" of anyone, but they also have an original 48 Hours on Saturday that gets "filler" type ratings, so they end up with about the same volume of originals. NBC still has fewer original hours than ABC or CBS, largely because they had so many taken up by football in the fall.

Spot said...

Yeah I think you are right. The overall sum should be the same. Thanks for answering, I was really just curious!

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